The Actors and their Roles
Geraldine McEwan as Miss Jane Marple
Sir Derek Jacobi as Colonel Protheroe
Miriam Margolyes as Mrs. Price-Ridley
Janet McTeer as Anne Protheroe
Jason Flemyng as Lawrence Redding
Tim McInnerny as Reverend Leonard Clement
Rachael Stirling as Griselda Clement
Stephen Tompkinson as Inspector Slack
Jane Asher as Mrs. Lester
Christina Cole as Lettice Protheroe
Emily Bruni as Helene Dufosse
Geraldine McEwan on her role as Miss Jane Marple:
'I love her. I love Miss Marple. And when I was asked to play her I just felt it was, well, it sounds a bit dramatic, but I thought it really was right that I was asked to play this part. I felt it was my destiny really, and I've enjoyed every minute of it. She is still evolving for me, and she's still becoming more things to me as I discover more about her.
'She's a very independent, self-sufficient person, who lives very much for the moment. She has an avid curiosity about people, and is very interested in their lives -- she's not really nosy, just curious. And she's very entertained by people. She has a razor sharp mind, a high intelligence, and is very witty.
'Her capacity to advise the police as to how they should solve these crimes is incredible and she's always one step ahead of them. I think that shows that Agatha Christie herself was a very witty woman.
'Miss Marple does sometimes pretend to be not as sharp as she really is. She is a very warm hearted and compassionate person, so people open up and talk to her in a way that they might not to other people and this reveals particular things about themselves which are always very useful to her. I don't think she's cynical in any way but she does use this to a certain extent.
'She has a kind of natural eccentricity that isn't remotely cultivated by her. She's such an individual person in the way she conducts her life. She's totally herself and doesn't care about extraneous things such as how she looks or what people's opinion of her are, they just don't come into her consciousness. She enjoys every minute of her existence and is not worried about getting old -- she absolutely lives in the present, which is what we would all love to achieve. This is what makes her so fascinating and endearing.
'I think it's terrific that we see Miss Marple as a younger woman. The fact that she isn't married isn't necessarily because she's never had the opportunity. She did have a lover when she was younger, but he was married. She's probably had a number of relationships in the past, but has chosen not to marry. She has a very romantic side to her.
'She's very open to everything, to all experiences. She's as happy going around the village with her tin collecting for the vicar's fete, as she is speeding along in an MG with one of her younger chums or dealing with somebody she knows has committed the most horrific murder. Even for the murderer she has a certain understanding and compassion. It might make her sound a bit smug but it's not that at all. She's a remarkable woman. I envy her capacity to live her life to the fullest.'
Geraldine is hopeful that this new interpretation will be embraced by die-hard Agatha Christie devotees:
'I hope that they'll recognize it as being true to Miss Marple and Agatha Christie. I feel very responsible to Agatha Christie; I always do if a writer has written a very special role, and one that has such a widespread appeal. I hope that I have got the essential qualities of Miss Marple, but it's true, obviously that my interpretation will be different to Joan Hickson or Margaret Rutherford's. But, as an actor, that's what's so fascinating and, I think, interesting for audiences. Nobody wants a cardboard cut out or a replica of how other people have been. Ultimately I hope that the Agatha Christie devotees will see a different Miss Marple, but one that they think is appropriate.'
Sir Derek Jacobi on his role as Colonel Protheroe:
Sir Derek Jacobi admits that playing Protheroe meant searching for an area of his own personality he'd rather not expose.
'Well, he's very unlike me! He's irascible. Partially deaf, this makes him loud when he talks. He's cantankerous, hell to live with and deserves all he gets! But it's all about pretending isn't it? Imagining what it would be like were you in that scenario -- and finding those bits of yourself you don't necessarily admit to! Protheroe is not happy at all. We don't know why. A personality defect I suppose -- an unpleasant gene he was born with perhaps.
'He has a very rocky and even dangerous marriage and he's a bully -- a born bully. Actors are like scavengers -- constantly looking and observing, so whilst you do use your own experiences, you also amalgamate other individuals into the mix.
'Agatha Christie's a wonderful storyteller. I remember as a young man she was the prime holiday read! Easy, satisfying and so many twists and turns. With The Murder at the Vicarage there are a number of suspects -- it's a classic, but I can't imagine anyone will guess the outcome... '
Miriam Margolyes on her role as Mrs. Price-Ridley:
'Mrs. Price-Ridley is nothing like me! She's a dreadful gossip, a social climber and she's the sort of English lady that you very often find in villages who knows everybody's business and if she doesn't, wants to! She's also probably quite a good cook, which is definitely not like me!
'She has firm ideas on sexual morality, partly based on the fact that she's a widow, I shouldn't wonder! The character was originally played by the great actress Rosalie Crutchley who's nothing like me -- tall, slender, beautiful. So it makes it much easier because I can just be a different way.'
Mrs. Price-Ridley is a woman of habit. She was married to Bruce, an Army man who was killed in the war and tragically her son was killed in the war as well. On the anniversary of their deaths she always puts a pound in the collection box at church, but when she finds that that money has not been added up in the collection box total, 'She's outraged and one of those people who is determined to challenge everybody. She's argumentative really and has quite a go at the vicar about this.
'She has a strong opinion about the vicar and his wife and this harks back to her single state -- her widowed state. She thinks that too much happiness in the bedroom is a bad thing so she's not happy about the vicar marrying someone much younger and in her eyes rather a flighty little miss. So she's very critical.'
'Every role that you tackle is built from the bricks of your own life, your observation, and things you've read. Every performance is a mosaic of all those different experiences and one of the reasons that Mrs. Price-Ridley works as a character is because she is a very recognizable type. We've all known people like that -- I certainly have.' 'I think Agatha Christie and Miss Marple are really an important part of modern 20th century writing. She does encapsulate a certain portion of English life, certainly in the first half of the 20th century.'
Janet McTeer on her role as Anne Protheroe:
'Her marriage is a fiasco,' says Janet McTeer of Anne Protheroe. 'Nowadays she'd simply leave the colonel -- he's so horrid to her. I don't think she'd feel obliged to try and make her marriage to him work, because he's so vile, mean and selfish. But of course this is the '50s, and divorce, let alone separation, was completely out of the question.'
'Anne and the colonel got married just after the war, so haven't been married more than a couple of years really. Lettice was probably 14 or 15 years old at the time, so a really tricky age and she simply doesn't like her stepmother and Anne finds that really difficult. Anne doesn't dislike Lettice -- in fact I think she thinks she's rather sweet -- she's just a tricky, rather jealous teenager.'
The only light on the horizon for Anne is her friendship with the bohemian painter Lawrence Redding.
'Lawrence is an artist staying in the village -- their friendship makes her very happy, but actually I also think it makes her very unhappy as well. It's a very small village and she's terrified their relationship will be discovered and a lady in her position within village life shouldn't really be seen with the likes of an artist! She's just very taken with his easy manner and his company takes her away from the oppression she feels at home.'
Despite playing a downtrodden woman, Janet is certain she would have handled Anne's situation in a very different manner:
'Personally I'd have socked him on the jaw! But there was a wonderful pleasure being barked at by Derek Jacobi -- it was a real thrill! He's very cheeky!
Jason Flemyng on his role as Lawrence Redding:
Lawrence, a bohemian artist, 'comes from the city and has a city way of living. He does a portrait of a very young Lettice in a swimsuit, which really goes against the grain and causes all sorts of problems when her father finds out. In his defense, when Lawrence paints, it's like he's painting a bowl of fruit -- for him there's no sexuality attached to it.'
'He and the colonel put up with one another, but it quickly becomes an all-out war situation. Protheroe definitely doesn't approve of Lettice spending so much time with Lawrence, whom he views as a layabout and completely beneath the family. Anne's a stunning woman who is stuck out in a back-water, under-appreciated by her husband and in Lawrence's opinion, ripe for picking!'
'I think he's a decent man and even Miss Marple recognizes that. Little gets passed her and he also appreciates her experience and intelligence.'
Tim McInnerny on his role as Reverend Leonard Clement:
'He's probably one of the nicest people I've ever played. He has a very young wife who he doesn't believe he is really worthy of. He comments that it's been the happiest three years of his life, which strikes me that he thinks that it may well be over any minute. He's concerned that because he is not worthy of her, Griselda will not stay. Certain old biddies in the village don't approve of his marriage to Griselda. Perhaps it's the veiled references to sex. Being very clearly in love and tactile is frowned upon.'
'Protheroe's attitude towards the vicar rather impugns the whole system of accounting in the church, but also they have different views of the world. I don't think they've ever got on really -- not that Colonel Protheroe gets on with anyone really, which is why everyone ends up being a suspect! Reverend Clement doesn't in any way see himself as a violent type, so it's a surprise to himself that he feels violently towards Protheroe.'
'That's complicated by the fact that although he dislikes Protheroe intensely he obviously doesn't approve of adultery either -- part of the job description! -- but also he's very wary of Lawrence and he's got a horrible feeling that Griselda likes him a lot more than she should. It's all down to his own self esteem -- if he was more confident about their relationship, he wouldn't feel so concerned.'
'I think it's one of the things from Agatha Christie that broke new ground -- to her there was no such thing as somebody who's incapable of murder so however nice somebody appears, or indeed is, anybody can commit a crime.
'I won't say that he's not capable of doing it, because I think he is. You see flashes of temper and he is in a kind of despair -- he's very unhappy with all the demons he's built up in his own head, which are nothing to do with his own life, but they seem very real to him.'
Rachael Stirling on her role as Griselda Clement:
Agatha Christie aptly sums up Griselda by stating: 'Griselda -- a highly suitable name for a parson's wife, but there the suitability ends -- she's not in the least meek. She sees the parsonage as a kind of huge joke arranged for her amusement.'
And Rachael Stirling adds: 'She's young, frivolous, funny, slightly badly behaved, and socially aware. And madly in love with her husband Leonard. I think he's a good and honorable man and Griselda has a huge sense of respect for him. I admire any woman who falls in love with a good man -- the naughty boys can seem so attractive, but a good man will stand by you and Griselda is pretty wise for her youth!
'Griselda can't resist embellishing a story and even pretends that she poses naked for Lawrence with a pink feather boa and nothing else -- she's a forward thinking modern woman!
'She hates lying, but by being distant to her husband she drives him to suspect her of having an affair -- but can she really be blamed for his lack of faith? I think Griselda has her heart in the right place.
'Everyone thinks she spends the parsonage funds on her fashions and they are slightly suspicious of where Griselda gets her beautiful clothes from. I suppose as a parson's wife one's expected to be modest and that just doesn't gel with her whatsoever. She's outspoken, flirtatious, and outrageous and generally takes pleasure in every minute of life -- that pretty much sums me up too!'
Stephen Tompkinson on his role as Inspector Slack:
Inspector Slack thinks he's got it all neatly sewn up when he gets a confession very early into his investigations.
'When Lawrence comes in and confesses with the murder weapon, Slack thinks his work is done. But as we soon discover there are a few more twists and turns to the plot. I think he's a bit annoyed with Miss Marple to begin with, especially the way she takes over and asks some very pertinent questions, but I think he's more than happy to take a back seat towards the end because he realizes he's more than met his match!
'He becomes aware very quickly that she has an association with the chief constable, which takes him down a few more pegs. So he's slightly on the back foot with her but quickly learns to gain respect for her and becomes deeply in awe of her marvelous talents.
'His wife has recently left him, so he has to learn to live on his own. Consequently he has a deep mistrust of vicars and anything that reminds him of marriage! This then has an impact on who his prime suspect is!'
Jane Asher on her role as Mrs. Lester:
'She's a bit of a boozer. And she's obviously had a rather colorful past. She's been married but was clearly unfaithful and has had at least one if not several flings and has now taken to the bottle to drown her sorrows, having lost somebody very close to her. She's a good time gal who has gone a little bit past it, but still likes to think that she's glamorous and up-to-the minute fashion-wise, but it's all a little bit over the top.
'It's a lovely part and as soon as I read it I knew it would be enormous fun as she's very up front -- she has a drink in front of everybody and at one stage she even belches in church quite loudly. She's very brash and very urban, relative to this quiet sleepy little village, so she sticks out like a sore thumb. Most of her dresses are very outlandish so she literally stands out in her behavior as well as how she dresses. A bit larger than life and in no way ashamed of it!
'She's a slightly mysterious woman and is not really accepted by the village. They are all rather curious about her, as to who she is and where she's come from and why she's there. And of course they're all slightly disapproving of her behavior. But as things progress, I think they come to like her because she's a good-hearted soul despite her extravagances. You discover that she has a relationship with one of the other characters which nobody could have foreseen!'
Christina Cole on her role as Lettice Protheroe:
'Her father is very severe with her. She may have had what she wanted financially, but love and security were never on tap. She never knew her mother, her father is very cold and she doesn't get on with her stepmother -- no wonder she's so uptight!
'She's got a huge crush on Lawrence. He's different, and he's exactly what her father wouldn't like, which is another appealing factor for her! But when she discovers that his affections lie elsewhere it just turns her world upside down.
'The moment her father finds out that she's been posing in the bathing suit and not in a dress, everything escalates out of control. Her behavior is almost attention-seeking -- trying to get her father to notice her -- even if it makes him angry. They just don't have a relationship, and that is reflected when she doesn't show an ounce of sorrow when he is killed.
'She certainly would never show Anne her emotions -- she's very angry at everything that's happened, and she wouldn't want to show any feelings as it might weaken her position somehow.
'Lettice is very provocative and very aware of her own sexuality -- she was fun to play. I don't really enjoy sitting around in my bikini, so we are very different people. You just get on with it and remind yourself that you're playing someone else. Lettice is very comfortable wearing her gingham bikini and she thinks she looks gorgeous in it. I just had to really focus on being her and try and forget I had the whole crew watching me!'
Emily Bruni on her role as Helene Dufosse:
'Immediately you become suspicious of Helene and Augustin because she does a lot of sneaking around, has a suspicious manner and acts very dubiously. When Protheroe is murdered, they are definitely one of many who could be the culprits. I liked how the writer created our characters as I think it gives the story further context. There is an echo and shadow of the terrible war that everyone was coming out of at the beginning of the '50s.
'I've always wanted to be in an Agatha Christie story. The characters are very clearly defined and very good fun and they certainly are in this script.'
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